Be Mindful  of Your Company

Be Mindful of Your Company

In a poignant message, Swami Sivananda warns spiritual seekers of the destructive influence of negative company. He recounts the tale of a devout Brahmin named Bilvamangala, who once attended the extravagant party of a woman named Chintamani and fell victim to her charms, ultimately derailing his life. Such cautionary tales are not scarce; they resonate with many of us.

The company we keep exerts a profound influence on our lives. Evil companionship can be insidious, and that's precisely why scriptures extol the virtues of solitude and the company of the righteous as preventive measures against spiritual downfall.

It's a mistake to underestimate the peril of bad company while overestimating our willpower to control our minds and impulses. Deep within our subconscious mind (chitta) lie impressions (samskaras) that can easily be ignited by exposure to malevolent influences or even by contemplating past wicked deeds.

The Role of Virtuous Company:

On the contrary, congregating with the wise (satsang) and the study of sacred texts (svadhyaya) have a counteractive effect. They help bring forth virtuous impressions that steer us toward righteous living.

Scriptures identify avidya, or ignorance of the self, as the most formidable force of evil. It manifests as the five klesas: avidya (ignorance), asmita (egoism), raga (attachment), dosha (aversion), and abhinivesa (fear of all sorts). These afflictions stem from the interplay of three qualities: sattva, rajas, and tamas, activated by corresponding inner impressions.

The Bhagavad Gita elucidates how these qualities dominate and suppress one another. A delicate balance among them is essential for harmony. When one quality prevails, the others recede.

The Struggle for Self-Realization:

The state of spiritual ignorance conceals our true self, allowing the projected or reflected self (comprising body, mind, and senses) to assume precedence. Under the sway of avidya, we may excel in secular pursuits but remain oblivious to our true self.

Avidya spawns the five klesas and the six enemies: kama (impure desires), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mada (false pride), matsarya (jealousy), and moha (delusion). These forces reside deep within our antahkarana (inner self) and can surge forth at any moment, even when we believe we have control over them.

Facing the Test:

Our ability to manage these inner foes is tested when rajas and tamas dominate our inner impressions, and external circumstances favor their emergence. For instance, suppressed lustful tendencies may resurface when confronted with temptation. The alluring 'Menaka' does not descend from the heavens but is a projection of the mind.

Watch Your Thoughts:

Similarly, repressed anger may surge forth when a cherished desire is thwarted, or one's ego is wounded. Greed, although controlled, can emerge when immediate desires find fulfillment. These vices are interconnected and not mutually exclusive.

The Path to Liberation:

While legality has its boundaries, morality encompasses a wider spectrum. The Bhagavad Gita characterizes desire and wrath as insatiable and eternal enemies, warning against the perils of lust, anger, and greed as gateways to spiritual decline.

The Gita offers a path of selfless action as a means to break free from this cycle, progress in spiritual evolution, and purify the inner self.

Cultivating Virtue:

To overcome these base tendencies, our Sastras prescribe practices such as cultivating virtuous thoughts (pratipaksha bhavana), introspection to assess underlying thought patterns (vrittis), nurturing a strong will to counter negative tendencies, associating with virtuous company, studying scriptures, and seeking divine assistance.

The elimination of vices is a prerequisite for leading an ideal human life rooted in ethical and spiritual dimensions.

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